Simi Peak

March 23, 2012

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simiart and I took on a great challenge today–Simi Peak via a loop route.  We started at the trailhead near the Oakbrook Trailhead cache and headed up the trail.  About 8 hours, 8.8 miles and 32 finds (for me, anyway–Art already had some finds), we returned to civilization at the Albertson Trailhead Cache is Back! cache.

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The views from the trail are spectacular–if you can see the views.  I was reminded of a line that I often heard when fishing, “You should have been here yesterday.”  Yesterday, in fact all week long, the weather has been very clear.  Today, as you can see from the photos, we had some thick haze and clouds.  But it was actually a trade-off.  Yesterday would have been much warmer.  I wasn’t complaining at all.  And the view were very nice in their own way.

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It was nice to see some wildflowers blooming.  We haven’t  had much color on the trails for a long time.

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We took an unplanned detour (read we went straight when we should have turned), but it worked out well.   A place called La Mancha is a “not at the posted coordinates” cache that requires matching photos with the terrain to find the cache.  Art saw the collapsed windmill on the side of the trail and realized it matched the cache requirements.   I signed the log (this was one of the caches that Art already had) and we quickly backtracked to the correct trail.

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And up the trail we went.  Actually that should read “And UP the trail we slowly went.  This is a challenging route.  The trail is often steeper than climbing stairs.  Whenever we came to a place where we needed to decide which way to go, the correct choice was always the path that was the steepest.

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You can see the trail over my shoulder.  The photo makes it look a lot easier that it actually is.

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I enjoyed the weathered rocks along the way.  Many reminded me of Swiss cheese.    It was also interesting to note that the faults that raised these mountains were in a different direction than the faults in the Rocky Peak area.

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You can see Art in the middle of the photo above.  This is a good representation of what the trail was like on the way to Simi Peak.   Often we couldn’t see the trail ahead.  We just knew if we were heading up, we were going the right way.

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It was a pleasure hiking with Art today.  The last time were were out together (it was also the first time), Art said that I almost killed him.  I think he was only half joking.  It was a tough hike.  We were doing lightningstar‘s Serpents Cave 4/4.   We were running up and down and up and down Hummingbird Trail all day long.  Both Art and I do a lot of solo hiking.  I was happy that he accepted my invitation to hike this trail today because I really didn’t think it was wise to do it alone.  And our hiking styles are similar–we both don’t mind taking our time–so we had a good time as hiking companions today.

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Another benefit of hiking with someone is that I have photographic proof that I was really there.

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Just about the time I was thinking that is was nice not to worry about poison oak, there is was.  In fact, in some places it was next to impossible to avoid.  I’m almost sure that I will be reminded about this hike in about a week when I start getting that itchy rash.

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This is the site of Simigate.  In fact, if you know where to look, you can see the cache in this photo.  The photo also shows the west side of Simi Peak.  Unfortunately, it also shows that all the elevation what we had been working so hard to gain was soon to be lost as we headed DOWN the trail so we could then climb UP again to get to the summit.

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A friend told me that there is an arch on the ridge below Simi Peak.  When we approached Simi Cave, I was glad to have found it.  Not quite southern Utah, but it’s still pretty cool.

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I had a new experience along the trail today.  TICKS.  TICKS. And more TICKS!  In all my years of hiking, I have only knowingly picked up a few ticks.  By few, I mean less that a dozen.  After walking through the bushes along the trail, I matched that with the first time that I stopped.  I had 15 to 20 ticks on my pants.  For a while, every time I left a bushy area, I had to stop and brush off more ticks.  Luckily, they all stayed on the outside of my pants.  I did a careful tick check when I got home.  We left all the ticks on the mountain.  [UPDATE:  This morning, when I was folding the laundry from yesterday, I found a tick–dead, luckily–stuck on my undershirt.  It made it through the washing machine and the dryer without coming off.]

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I posted the photo of  Art and me on the top of Simi Peak as the opening photo of this post.  We took a 30-minute lunch break on the top and enjoyed the views.  Then it was time for the descent.  There was a long section without geocaches because it’s National Park Service land and caches can’t be placed on NPS-controlled land.  What we did get was a chance to hike through the beautiful area in and around China Flat.  I was very impressed.

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It was a great day of hiking and of geocaching.  I highly recommend the route that we took today, as long as you don’t mind steep climbs.  I don’t think that I would want to do this loop clockwise.  I would much prefer going up the steep places than to try to go down them.  If you just want to get to the top of Simi Peak, take Albertson in and out.  Or perhaps approach from the south from Cheesboro.  But if you want an unforgettable geocaching or hiking adventure, give this route a try.

Simi Peak Loop Track


Long Canyon’s Dog Loop

March 20, 2012

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This morning, I hiked a trail that is new to me.  It’s located on east side of Long Canyon.  Because of the names of the caches along the way, I’ve called it the Dog Loop.  The southbound route is through Oak Canyon and the return is through Montgomery Canyon.

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An unusual thing about this trail is the trail head.  There is a very nice parking area, probably enough for at least 10 cars, but it is chained closed with a No Parking sign on the fence.  This is a small parking area located at Quick Grab, a short distance down the road.

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I choose to hike the trail in a counter-clockwise direction.  Looking back on the trip, I think that is the better direction to take the trip.  The trail begins with a level walk through nice oaks.  After 1 mile, the trail climbs for a bit less than another mile (climbing about 400 ft), then it’s downhill the rest of the way.  The total hike is 3.5 miles.

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It was a perfect day for the hike:  sunny, cool, and only a slight breeze.  I only saw a couple of people along the way; a woman trail runner and a woman mountain bikers.

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We had a pretty good rain a couple of days ago.  The trail was in good shape, only muddy in a few places.  I’m hoping that the rains will bring some flowers.  Today, I only saw a few flowering plants.

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I enjoyed the hike.  I’m sure that I will be back for more visits.

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I found 12 caches along the way, with one DNF.  I’ve listed the caches at the end of the post, along with the trail track.  3.5 miles, with total elevation gain of about 800 feet.

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dog loop

Dog Wood

Dog Bark

Dog Rest Spot

Dog Bones

Silver Bullet

The Thinker

Barking Up The Wrong “Branch”?

Dog Gone Minute

Dog Herder

Flour Pot

Quick Grab


Geocaching in the News

March 18, 2012

On Leap Day, I was interviewed by a reporter for an article on geocaching for the Los Angeles Times.  She is based in New York City, but was in Los Angeles on a trip when she found one of my downtown LA caches.  It’s a Virtual on Olvera Street–Avila Adobe  GCBD2A.  The 10-minute interview was distilled into a 2 line mention.  It  is one of the better (and certainly the most accurate) article on geocaching that I’ve seen in a long time.  Here it is:

Geocaching is fun hidden in plain sight

Participants use a phone app to find treasures — sometimes as simple as a log book — hidden all over the world.

 By Ada Calhoun, Special to the Los Angeles TimesMarch 18, 2012

If on a recent weekday afternoon you saw an otherwise sane-seeming thirtysomething woman running her hands along a chain-link fence in the parking lot of Philippe the Original or thrashing around in the woods of Griffith Park above the Greek Theatre, that was me. Contrary to appearances, I was neither on drugs nor hiding a dead body; I was just geocaching.

The American geocache — or GPS-enabled treasure hunt — craze began in 2000 when decent GPS technology became more accessible to the masses. The first cachers were a few computer geeks in — where else? — the Pacific Northwest, hiding things in nature, logging the coordinates, and challenging one another to find them. There are now more than 1.6 million caches hidden all over the world — in cities and remote areas, in trees and in buildings, even one on the International Space Station and another so far below the ocean surface that its seekers need scuba gear.

Los Angeles and San Francisco have evolved into major hubs for the hobby. There are 100,000 geocaches in California and 18,000 within 50 miles of L.A., according to Eric Schudiske, public relations manager for Groundspeak, the Seattle-based company that runs Geocaching.com.

Usually at the cache site there is a logbook to sign, and sometimes trinkets that can be swapped, but caches rarely have value beyond the thrill of the find, which you can tally on your geocaching.com profile page.

“Most of the caches take you to places you’ve never been before or you didn’t even know existed,” says Jeff Jost, 52, of West Hills. The retired Web designer, who has more than 7,300 finds and dozens of hides to his credit, says he especially enjoys meeting with friends to do “power runs,” like the Santa Monica Mountains stretch in which hikers can find hundreds of caches in a row.

“I’m devoted to this thing now,” Jost says. “I’m a junkie.”

Some caches are traditional — often straightforward “park and grabs,” for which you drive or walk to the coordinates and find a physical cache; others are virtual and require a player to visit a certain place and send in proof they were there (although virtuals are being phased out on geocaching.com and transferred over to the sister site waymarking.com); other caches require you to solve a puzzle either at home or in the field; “multis” take you from the coordinates to the cache via hints or puzzles.

John Marquez, a 55-year-old maintenance supervisor who grew up on Olvera Street and lives in Rialto, tends to put his caches near interesting restaurants and inside lamppost bases, which in L.A. have an easily accessible secret compartment.

Hiders can be diabolically creative; they might make a fake log, paint it to blend in, and stash it in the woods. They might craft a fake panel for an existing public sign. Or they might create an elaborate multi-part puzzle like the revered Dragonfly Scroll, a cryptic cache hidden near L.A. that requires downloading “parchments” and cracking several codes.

As hobbies go, it’s pretty cheap. A basic membership on geocaching.com is free, but most serious geocachers opt for the $30-per-year premium membership. Either way, the site provides coordinates that let a player use any GPS-enabled device (apps for the iPhone or Blackberry are about $10) like a high-tech compass.

You can hunt alone or as part of a group. Reality-TV editor Molly Shock last year created “Trouble in Tinseltown,” which via a fake tabloid called Hush Hush sent cachers to Old Hollywood landmarks to find 15 hidden caches and solve a murder mystery. From 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 31, the San Fernando Valley Geocachers are hosting a “geocaching photo scavenger hunt and road rally.” Where? Why, at N 34° 14.551 W 118° 33.407, of course.

In case you can’t tell, some people take caching seriously. Some set goals, such as to find one cache a day for 365 days (or 366, as local cacher Craig Oakford, hider of a Leap Day cache, is quick to point out). Others try to find a cache in every state or to find every one of the 81 combinations of cache rankings on a half-point scale of 1-5 for difficulty (how hard it is to find) and terrain (how hard it is to get to) or to be the first to find a cache (“FTF” in geocache parlance).

Others are just into racking up the big numbers. Elin Carlson, a Northridge-based opera singer with more than 27,000 finds to her credit (she is ranked 24th in the world for number of finds — down from No. 3, she says, because work interfered), says L.A. is especially good for caching. “You find more geocaches in places where there’s good weather,” Carlson says. “Geocaching in the snow is really, really hard.”

I had never heard of the phenomenon until my friend, actress Lili Taylor, showed me the app on her phone. She says she loves it, “because anywhere you go in the world you might find a geocache. It’s a great way to get outside, a fun thing to do with kids and friends. When I find the geocache and look at the log I have a deeper sense of sharing the world with others.”

I downloaded the CacheSense app for my Blackberry. Now whenever I’m stuck somewhere, I hit “nearest caches” and marvel at how many are within a few blocks. I’ve found three geocaches in three states: a magnetized capsule hidden under a railing overlooking the East River in New York City; a Tupperware container of trinkets in a stone wall by a lighthouse in Kauai, Hawaii; and a virtual cache at Los Angeles’ Avila Adobe.

And I have tried and failed to find many others. I lack traits that cachers say are necessary: patience, persistence and a good sense of direction — also, indifference to appearances. When I was trolling around Philippe’s and Griffith Park, I imagined that passersby — “muggles,” as they are geekily called on the Geocaching.com message boards — merely saw a terrible parent. My 5-year-old son spent one L.A. search whining that he needed a straw for his Olvera Street snow cone and another picking up empty liquor bottles in the woods, saying, “Is this it?”

Taking my son to stare at a parking lot fence for 10 solid minutes trying to spot a film canister felt like a low for me as a mother. Taylor sympathetically said she’d once bored her toddler daughter literally to tears while “searching on my hands and knees for what was supposedly the easiest cache.” Still stumped, she dropped her daughter off with her husband and went back out to search some more. And …?

“Never found it.”

I never found the one at Griffith Park, either. When I later asked the cache hider where it was, he said it was an easy “lamppost cache” in the picnic area. My son and I had trekked up a steep hill in the opposite direction and explored the forest for a solid hour. While there, we marveled over a tree with lightning scars, saw an amazing view of the city and even locked eyes with a coyote.

This, I realized in that moment, is my kind of game: even in losing, you win.

calendar@latimes.com

GeocachingTwo men check their position on cellphones with GPS in a forest while geocaching in the United Kingdom in July 2010. (Official Windows Magazine, Getty Images / March 18, 2012)

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times


Cache in a Crack GC39P9J

March 7, 2012

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When discussing my attempt to find every cache within a 5-mile radius of my home with lightningstar (Mike) and Gummyfrog (Bart) in December, they both told me that I was in for a treat.  They were both putting out 5/5 rated caches that would require rappelling off of cliffs inside my circle.
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I usually geocache alone.  The rappelling requirement would require seeking help from others; others that had both the technical skills and equipment to find these caches safely.  Both Mike and Bart offered their assistance, as did majorjarhead.  I was afraid of imposing on Mike and Bart; they were spending a lot of time running up and down the mountain maintaining their caches and helping others with the rappel.

I learned from the FTFers on  lightningstar‘s Cliff Face 5/5  that there was a non-rappelling way to complete the cache.  I did my homework and completed that challenging cache February 24th.

I turned to my long-time friend, majorjarhead (Mel), who is an expert climber, for some help with Cache in a Crack.  We, along with Mel’s friend Steve (ltsed) made our assault on this challenging cache this morning.

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When we arrived at the rock, we were able to see the cache in the crack.  The only question was how to get to the correct spot above it to do the rappel.    I went one way and Mel and Steve went another and then another.  Once on the top, the wind was blowing hard enough at times to almost knock me over.

After careful consideration, Steve and I decided to toss in the towel for the day and get more information about the rappel set up from Bart and Mike.  On the way down the rocks, another option presented itself.  I don’t want to spell out what we did, but we did use correct climbing techniques to safely get our hands on the cache without doing the rappel from above.

NOTE:  Please don’t try to access the cache without the proper climbing gear and without using safe techniques.  Trying to get the cache without using the proper equipment will probably lead to severe injuries or death.

 

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As it was, it took us more than 3 and one-half hours to get this cache into the Found column.  It was a fun adventure.  I enjoyed being out with some real pros–Mel and Steve, thank you very much for helping me with this cache.

Now my magic number for Empty Circle 5.0 Challenge is now 1–I only need Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo, which has really been a bete noir, to complete the challenge.  That is until more caches are placed before I can get back up the hill to find Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo.